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Local used as ‘patsy’ in illegal state land sale

A Koh Kong agriculture department official was demoted and a land management official is under investigation for using an unwitting woman’s identity to forge documents and sell state-owned land for $300,000.

The province’s director for the agriculture department, Meas Sopheap, was demoted in June following an investigation by the ministry. During the course of the investigation, it was found that Hak Bora, a land official in the town, had allegedly colluded with Sopheap to sell the land, said In Kongchit, Licadho’s provincial coordinator.

“There was systematic collusion between the two or else this could not have been done,” Kongchit said yesterday.

He added that the two officials needed to be sent to court for allegedly tricking Khemarak Pumin town resident Kem La – who is illiterate – into signing documents that she thought was an application for a land title, but was actually a sale contract for a 60-by-40-metre piece of state land along National Road 48.

“The perpetrators must be brought to justice and the land has to be seized back as state property,” he said.

La, the victim, filed a complaint in June with rights group Licadho after local authorities inquired about her sale of state-owned land to a Phnom Penh buyer last year.

“I do not have that land and I know nothing,” she said. “I am afraid that in the future I will be ordered to pay money for the land.”

La has filed complaints with town officials and the provincial department for land management, with the latter initiating an investigation into Bora, Kongchit said.

An official with the provincial land department declined to comment yesterday, and others could not be reached.

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